Hospitality businesses can improve the Internet guest WiFi experience using managed WiFi technology
The Internet service is the first item that will give a guest a good or bad impression of a motel, hotel or resort. The Internet is also at the top of the list when a guest is writing a review after a stay. Reviews will make a big difference to the occupation rate of a hospitality business. If the Internet service is so important for guests, why don’t more hospitality businesses invest to improve the service? The investment cost to improve the guest WiFi service is low, maybe the price of a coffee machine for the restaurant.
The following article is divided into three sections that describe various methods to improve the guest WiFi Internet experience. The technology that is required is called managed WiFi and is provided by specialist manufacturers such as Guest Internet. Some comments are also made about the hospitality business implementing protections to counter malicious use of the WiFi network, and ideas to improve financial performance of the business using managed WiFi technology.
Improve the guest Internet WiFi experience
Ensure that using the WiFi Internet service is very easy for guests. Put instructions in each room explaining how to use the Internet service. This is essential because connecting to a WiFi service that has a login page may confuse some guests. The main cause of the problem is that the guest’s browser has an encrypted home page so when the browser opens nothing is displayed, the encrypted page cannot be redirected to the login page. The guest must be advised to open a new browser tab then type the name of the login page. Some mobile devices will display a message that a login screen must be opened however a guest not familiar with using public WiFi will miss or not understand the message. The instructions should include the following.
• Connect to the WiFi name (give the name of the SSID).
• Open a browser.
• Open a new browser tab (important for the reasons above).
• Type the name of the login page.
• Type the code that reception gave during check-in.
Plan to have an Internet connection that can provide each guest room with at least 2Mb/s bandwidth. For 100 rooms plan to have a 200Mb/s Internet circuit. In practice there may be up to four Internet users per room for a family stay, however not all rooms will be occupied or if occupied will not be using the Internet. A slow or intermittent Internet service is a big cause of guest complaints.
Create a friendly login page using the managed WiFi system that makes the Internet service easy to use, use multi-languages and provide clear instructions. Also don’t add a lot of graphics to the login page, especially video graphics which have to be downloaded from an external server. A high graphic content will cause the login page to open slowly, which is the guest’s first impression of the service, and will provide a negative experience for the guest.
Give guests access codes to prevent the neighbours getting free Internet access. Allowing anyone to use the Internet WiFi will deteriorate the service for the guests. The access code can be unique for each guest or the hotel can create a daily code valid for 24 hours that all guests can use to login. To facilitate giving each guest a unique access code a receipt printer can be installed behind the front desk, which is connected to the managed WiFi system and prints a unique code on demand. An alternative procedure to create guest WiFi codes is to configure the property management system (PMS) to generate a WiFi code when the guest checks in and send the code to the managed WiFi system. It is important to provide the guest with the WiFi access code at check-in so that the guest does not have to call the front desk to find out how to connect to the Internet.
Set maximum speed limits with the managed WiFi system for each guest so that the available bandwidth is shared between guests. If this is not done then when one guest downloads a big file from the Internet such as a DVD, the Internet service will become slow for all guests leading to guest complaints about the service quality.
The managed WiFi system should give a free pass for a gaming console. A family may have children or adults who use gaming consoles, and some are not easy to connect to the Internet where there is a login page. Configure the managed WiFi to detect a game console and allow it to connect to the Internet without a login page.
Protect the network from guest’s devices that have a DoS virus by using the managed WiFi system to block those devices. A computer that has an active DoS virus attack will cause the WiFi Internet service to be unusable, as the high rate of data packet transmission will use all the uplink bandwidth from the hotel network to the Internet.
Get a second Internet service for the guest WiFi service so that when one ISP connection fails guests continue to communicate with the Internet. The two Internet connections should be configured by the managed WiFi system with load balancing and failover. This means that the combination of the two circuit bandwidths is available for guests for a faster Internet service, however when one Internet circuit fails, guests are switched to the service that is working. The ISP Internet service is the weakest link with the WiFi Internet connection.
Ensure good WiFi coverage to each room. This is done by walking around the property with a phone app called WiFi Analyzer or similar. The phone will show the signal strength of the WiFi network wireless access points. If the signal becomes very low then more wireless access points must be added to the network. If each room is wired for CAT5/6 cable for the phone and TV, then install a wireless access point wall outlet in each room to ensure that each room has a strong WiFi access. Don’t forget to add wireless access points for the reception area and the restaurant.
Use the Internet service to improve the guest experience. The login page can be developed as a service page that the guest can use. For example, show the room service menu and permit the guest to place an order. Another example is a message for housekeeping; the guest can send a message when more toilet rolls or towels are required. Add also third-party services; for example, if the guest requires a rental car, then the hotel can provide this feature on the login page. Use the Internet WiFi login page to get guest feedback about the service, ask guests how the service can be improved by clicking boxes. An improvement in the service will increase returns and occupancy rates. The company that developed the website for the hotel can develop a login page with all the features listed and install in on the managed WiFi system. Take advantage of the customer-facing interface to improve the quality of the customer service.
Connecting to an open WiFi service that is required for public WiFi permits a hacker to capture guest information, as the guest connection is not encrypted, unless the guest is connecting to an encrypted website. A VPN service will encrypt the guest’s connection ensuring privacy for the guest. The hospitality business can become an agent for a VPN service. There are many VPN businesses looking for agents who will pay a fee for each sale. Helping the guest to sign up for a secure VPN service will protect the guest and also make money for the hospitality business.
Protect the hospitality business from malicious WiFi use
There are two problems that might be caused by malicious use of the guest WiFi Internet service.
The first problem is making the mistake to connect the guest WiFi directly to the hotel network. This will allow a hacker to access the hotel systems. Theft can range from stealing customer credit card information from the point-of-sale terminal, to installing ransomware software onto the hotel computers. Any business that has a point-of-sale terminal must comply with the PCI DSS (payment card industry data security standards) requirements. The standards require the business to connect the guest WiFi to a separate ISP connection that is not used by the hotel systems. Alternatively install a firewall between the guest WiFi and the hotel network. The managed WiFi systems will include a PCI compliant firewall to protect the business from hackers.
The second problem will arise when guests are sharing copyrighted files using a service such as Torrent. The copyright holders monitor Torrent services and can identify the IP address of the location where the files are being shared. The copyright owner’s attorney then sends a letter called a DMCA takedown to the ISP who hosts the IP address. The ISP then has a legal obligation to write to the business requesting to terminate file sharing or the Internet service will be disconnected. This is serious, as the business needs the Internet service to operate. The managed WiFi system can be configured to block Torrent messages, and provide an option to block the computer that is sending the Torrent messages.
Reduce Investment and operating costs with the Guest managed WiFi system
Most hospitality businesses have two WiFi networks, one for the staff and one for the guests. When the business WiFi infrastructure is being upgraded, consider replacing two separate WiFi networks that were used for guests and staff with one WiFi network that has dual SSID’s where guests and staff are isolated using the managed WiFi VLAN technology. This will reduce the WiFi investment cost to half.
Recover some of the WiFi service operating costs by adding a 2-tier WiFi service to the managed WiFi system. The slower Internet service continues to be offered to all guests without charge. A 2-tier WiFi service requires the login page to offer fast WiFi as a paid service where the guest can purchase fast access using a credit card. Guests who are expensing their stay will purchase the faster Internet for business use. A hotel that serves predominately business travellers will pay the operating costs and have a profit at the end of each month. Use some of the profits to pay for a faster Internet service.
The WiFi login page can be a source of income for a hospitality business through advertising services that guests often purchase. The local pizza take-out or the local car rental company will pay to advertise services for guests. The managed WiFi login page can have an advertising banner that opens the advertisers web page without the guest having to login to the service.
Several manufacturers offer managed WiFi equipment that the reader can find through a Google search. The managed WiFi description in this article was based on the Guest Internet range of managed WiFi products.
Click here to view our range of “Guest Internet Solutions” products.